Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is a small city in Sevier County, Tennessee, United States. Before it was incorporated, the town was referred to as White Oak Flats. The city is now a popular vocational mountain resort as it is situated on the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the United States.

Geography And Climate of Gatlinburg 

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, town skyline
Skyline of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains. 

The city of Gatlinburg lies about 50 km southeast of Knoxville, at the northwestern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. According to the U.S Bureau, the city covers a total area of 26 sq. km, all of which is occupied by land. Located at an elevation of 393 m above sea level, Gatlinburg is surrounded on all sides by high ridges, with Le Conte and Sugarland Mountain massifs rising to the south, Grapeyard Ridge to the east, Big Ridge to the northeast, and Cove Mountain to the west. 

According to the Köppen climate classification, the city of Gatlinburg experiences a humid subtropical climate with cool, wet winters and hot, humid summers. The hot season lasts from May to September, with July being the hottest month having an average high temperature of 28.8°C and a low temperature of 18.3°C. The cold season lasts from December to February, with January being the coldest month, with an average low temperature of -1.6°C and a high temperature of 8.3°C. The city receives an average annual precipitation of 58.20 inches and an average annual snowfall of 7.7 inches.

The Population Of Gatlinburg

Wild Bear Falls Water Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Wild Bear Falls Water Park at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is the largest indoor waterpark in the South and the fifth-largest in the United States. Editorial credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, had a population of 3,701 in 2020 with a median age of 47.2. The city's population is declining at a rate of -1.42% annually. The largest ethnic groups in Gatlinburg are the non-Hispanic White making up 86% of the city's population, Asians at 4.62%, Black or African Americans at 3.8%, Two or more races at 3.57%. The minor ethnic groups are Other at 1.42%, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander at 0.47%, and Native Americans at 0.1%. As of 2019, around 90% of the city’s residents are U.S. citizens, and about 12.7% were born outside of the country. The most common birthplace for foreign-born residents of Tennessee is Mexico, followed by India and Guatemala.

Economy Of Gatlinburg 

Main Street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
A shot of the main street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Editorial credit: Dawid S Swierczek / Shutterstock.com

The median household income in Gatlinburg is $40.802. Although the income inequality in Tennessee (measured using the Gini index) is 0.465, which is lower than the national average, males tend to have an average income that is 1.37 times higher than the average income of females. The economy of Gatlinburg employs more than half of the residents in different industries. The largest industries in the city are Accommodation & Food Services, Retail Trade, and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation. The highest paying ones are Educational Services, Public Administration, and Utilities. The poverty rate in Gatlinburg is higher than the national average of 12.3%. Around 13.7% of the city's population for whom poverty status is determined to live below the poverty line, of whom most are White followed by Hispanic.

Brief History Of Gatlinburg

Historic Pioneer Log Cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Historic Pioneer Log Cabin in the forest in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The first European settlers in the area were the English and Scotch-Irish, who arrived along the Little Pigeon River starting in 1795. The settlers established the White Oak Flats settlement in 1835. However, the settlement was later renamed in 1860 for Radford Gatlin, who opened a store there in 1855. In 1863, an American Civil War skirmish took place near Gatlinburg, in which Union forces routed a Confederate force that included Cherokee. It marked what was said to be the last skirmish to take place east of the Mississippi River in which Native Americans participated. Gatlinburg developed as a resort center for the Smokies region in the following decades. Tourism has always been the basis of the economy of the city.

Tourist Attractions In Gatlinburg 

Space Needle in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Arcadia and Space Needle in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Editorial credit: Stephen B. Goodwin / Shutterstock.com

Gatlinburg is a picturesque and historic town. Tourists usually visit the town as a common stopping point while traveling in the Eastern United States. Tourist attractions include family fun and outdoor activities in the Great Smoky Mountains. Visitors usually visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle, an observation tower overlooking Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.  

A Bull Elk relaxing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A bull elk relaxes in a summer shade along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Tourists also visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited national park in the country. The park is visited for its ancient mountains, wide range of animal and plant life that reside in the region, and the remains of Southern Appalachian Mountain culture. Highlights of the park include Cades Cove, wildflowers, and hiking. The park is home to more than 1500 flowering plants, more than any national park in North America.

Tourists at Gatlinburg Skydeck facing the Great Smoky Mountains.
Tourists sit on the outdoor chairs at Gatlinburg Skydeck, facing the best view of the Great Smoky Mountains on a sunny day. Editorial credit: Chansak Joe / Shutterstock.com

The Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook is a popular place for photographers and visitors who come to view the stunning sunsets. It is a pull-over spot on the Gatlinburg Bypass with amazing views of Gatlinburg itself and the Great Smoky Mountains surrounding it. The majestic mountain and valley views that the overlook offers draw locals and tourists all year round. 

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